General Managers in NCAA Sports? – A New Way of Recruiting

The following article was written by Benjamin Haynes, Esq.

The NCAA only permits coaches and assistant coaches at universities to participate in the recruitment of student-athletes. If staff members of a university other than the coaches recruit student-athletes to the school, it is an NCAA violation. There is currently a proposed amendment on this rule pending. This amendment would allow certain university staff, known as directors of player personnel, the ability to watch film on prospective student-athletes. Also, this rule would give the staff the ability to contact a prospective student-athlete’s guardian or coach. However, the coaching staff would still be the only staff allowed to visit the prospective student-athlete at the athlete’s home and/or conduct an in-person evaluation.

Many schools have been receptive to this proposed amendment. If the amendment passes, it would allow coaching staffs to focus “more on game preparation and player management,” according to Virginia Tech Football Head Coach, Frank Beamer. Other coaches believe that if the amendment is adopted it would permit the staff to create a position solely for overseeing recruiting. This would essentially be creating a position of a general manager in collegiate sports, similar to general managers in professional sports who handle the evaluation of talent.

The NCAA believes that passing the amendment would reduce the amount of compliance monitoring a school needs to perform. The Association argues that because what constitutes recruiting in the NCAA rule book is narrowly defined,  by allowing more flexibility in the recruiting process there will not be as many precautions needed prior to recruiting. Others believe that by adding another staff member, it will only add to the amount of compliance monitoring required. In a recent Washington Post article, the Associate Athletic Director of Virginia Tech, Tim Parker, stated, “We will have to do more phone logs because there will be additional people that will be making phone calls.”

While at first glance this amendment may seem appealing to coaching staffs across the country, there could be foreseeable risks of violations in the future. The rule proposes to take some responsibility away from coaching staffs and place that responsibility on a separate staff member. Thus, the coaches will be unaware of all the recruiting work this director of player personnel is performing. What happens if a director of player personnel violates an NCAA rule which the coaching staff was unaware the director conducted in the first place? Will the entire sports program be penalized because of this director’s mistake?

The NCAA is concerned that schools may potentially fill this director’s position with a coach who has connections with some of the recruits. This could include an AAU coach, or a local coach with close relationships with some of these prospective student-athletes. The NCAA is aware that the change could potentially cause some severe recruiting violations. Therefore, the Association is considering prohibiting schools from hiring someone who is associated with one of these recruits, but that sounds like an extremely difficult prohibition to monitor. The school’s compliance team would have to conduct thorough investigations on individuals applying for the director of player personnel position, and even after an investigation, an individual could have relationships with prospective student-athletes, which the compliance staff had no way of finding out about. Then, if the NCAA becomes aware of this previous relationship with the director and a prospective student-athlete, sanctions on the entire program could follow.

One thing is certain – while the proposed amendment will free up some extra time for coaching staffs, it will not reduce the amount of oversight the compliance office will need to perform. The athletic compliance teams will have to make sure the directors of player personnel are abiding by the rules. Further, the compliance staff will have to carefully investigate the applicant for this position. If the compliance staff fails on any of the above, the NCAA may slap a lack of institutional control penalty on the university. While coaches may want this rule change, compliance staffs will hope this proposed amendment does not pass, or it will be more work and responsibility on their shoulders.

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